What you Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

People age 16 and older who live, work or go to school in Rhode Island can now get the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting a vaccine is one of the best ways we can help protect ourselves and our families. It will also help us end the pandemic and get back to normal life.

May 07, 2021  

You likely have questions about the vaccine. So here’s some information that may help.


What happened with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is back in use with a warning for women younger than 50 years of age that there is a rare risk of blood clots with the J&J vaccine. Similar issues have not been seen with the other COVID-19 vaccines.

Contact your health care provider if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or difficulty breathing within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine.

Please visit the CDC’s website for the latest information. 

Are the vaccines safe?

The FDA and CDC have safety checks to make sure the vaccines it approves are safe and effective. The pause in using the J&J vaccine shows how those safety checks work. Any reports of health issues following COVID-19 vaccination are taken very seriously. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

What do the COVID vaccines do?

They “train” your immune system to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
After you get a vaccine, you are less likely to catch COVID-19. Even if you do catch it, your symptoms will be less severe than if you had not gotten a vaccine.
The  COVID-19 vaccine will not give you the COVID-19 infection.

The risks of getting COVID-19 if you don’t get vaccinated are high.

Having COVID-19 can lead to hospitalization and even death. So it's much safer to get a vaccine than it is to get COVID-19.

Who should get a vaccine?

Health experts urge everyone 16 and older to get a vaccine as soon as possible. The more people who get vaccinated, the better we'll be able to stop the spread of the virus.
Keep in mind that as of April 2021 no vaccines are recommended for kids younger than 16. Teens age 16 and 17 need to get the Pfizer vaccine. It is the only one approved for use in this age group at this time.
A vaccine is especially important for people who are at high risk. This includes people who may be exposed to COVID-19 more often because of their jobs. It also includes people who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19 if they catch it. Some examples of people at high risk include those who: 

  • Work in health care
  • Are considered essential workers
  • Have certain health conditions, such as cancer, chronic kidney disease or obesity
  • Are older than age 65

Even if you've already had COVID-19, you may still be able to catch it again or pass it on to others. Getting a vaccine provides extra protection for you and your community.

And remember: Depending on which vaccine you get, you may need one dose or two doses. You might also need "booster" doses later on to help you stay protected. Follow the instructions of the health care providers who give you your vaccine.

Where can you get a vaccine?

You can get a vaccine at some local CVS or Walgreens pharmacies, or at state-run sites. Each city or town is also organizing its own vaccinations and will have its own website for making appointments. To learn more, visit your town’s or city’s website. There is no cost to you when you get a vaccine.

What if I live in a high-risk community?

You may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine sooner based on where you live. Rhode Island is focusing on getting vaccines to high-risk areas, like Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence. Visit your town’s or city’s website to find out about vaccines in your community.

Does it matter which vaccine you receive?

No. The CDC urges people to get whichever vaccine is available first. However, there is a warning for women younger than 50 years of age that there is a rare risk of blood clots with the J&J vaccine. Similar issues have not been seen with the other COVID-19 vaccines.

How can you care for yourself after getting the vaccine?

If you have a sore arm or a slight fever after the vaccine, take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Experts warn not to take these drugs before you get your shot if they are not part of your daily routine. It’s a good idea to talk with your provider before taking any medication. There could be life-threatening consequences if you mix medications. You can also put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Call your provider if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. This could be a sign of the rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the vaccine.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most important ways you can help protect yourself and the people you love from COVID-19.

Remember to do everything you can to stop the spread. Follow the safety basics—even if you have gotten the vaccine. You can learn about the CDC guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated here.